October is American Archives Month, and the assistant archivist for the Diocese of Burlington is commemorating it by highlighting a facet of the collections of the archives each week.

Because this year’s theme for the special month is “Biography: Stories of People and Places,” Kathleen Messier, in collaboration with the diocesan Office of Communications, is focusing on the four main uses of the archives in the Diocese of Burlington: administrative, historical, genealogical and education/outreach on various online platforms.

At the diocesan offices on Joy Drive in South Burlington, she is highlighting those same four aspects with informal newsletter-style emails with photos or other descriptive information for employees to read at their leisure.

Oct. 2, for example, was the day designated for the online interactive or real activity known as “Ask an Archivist” day. “My colleagues here on Joy Drive participated by asking some excellent questions regarding their parishes, particular archival practices, or meanings of some of the elements incorporated in the building of some of the Diocese’s oldest churches,” she said.

Messier appreciates the continued questions and comments about the archives. “What always causes me to pause is knowing that people, places and events were as real in 1830, 1853, 1945, etc. as they are now,” she said. “They were so real that efforts have been made by those who came before us to preserve them through extensive documentation (photographs, biographical information and recorded memories and the like).”

Preserving history is important, both for families and for the Church. “As members of the Body of Christ here in the Diocese, it’s important to have some knowledge and understanding of Vermont’s Catholic heritage,” said the member the Society of American Archivists, New England Archivists and Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists.

Family history often is passed on from one generation to the next through the sharing of photographs, books, artifacts and oral and/or written historical information. “This all gives us an understanding of ourselves in the historical context of our human family – Who am I? How did I get here? What were some major events that contributed to my heritage?” she said. “Now, in applying this same idea to our spiritual family as Vermont Catholics: It is vital to have the awareness of the origins and development of the Diocese of Burlington and we can utilize the records of our Church to help us have a sense of who we are as Catholics in Vermont now because of the work done by those who came to minister to Catholics and establish this Diocese so long ago.”

Among the most important records retained by the Catholic Church are sacramental records – all current sacramental registers are retained at the parish where the sacrament took place, but the Diocesan Archives is the repository of a few original, very old sacramental registers that, over time, were too deteriorated to keep in their respective parish office.

“There is a collection of transcribed records from almost every parish in Vermont retained in the archives as well, so when individuals are contacting the archives for family genealogy purposes, those books serve as reference to establish an ancestor’s Catholic heritage,” Messier said.

She invites those interested to visit the archives on the diocesan website for more detailed information regarding sacramental records (vermontcatholic.org).

A special presentation

In collaboration with diocesan Director of Worship Josh Perry, a presentation titled, “A cause for Sainthood – Burlington’s First Bishop,” covering:

  • The path to sainthood – Who? Why? What? How? When? Exploring the process of canonization in the Catholic church.
  • A biographical sketch of Burlington’s first Bishop, Louis de Goësbriand
  • A curated display of artifacts belonging to or used by Bishop de Goësbriand
  • Comments, questions and answers.

Representatives of parishes interested either in hearing more or scheduling this presentation may contact the archives at archives@vermontcatholic.org.